EWS Trail of the Year Award presented by Specialized

21 September 2017

If you’ve ever wondered what goes into the creation of an Enduro World Series race stage, that’s an easy answer – a lot of hard work. Which is why the EWS has created a new award to recognise the people behind the scenes who wield the tools that create the trails we love to see raced. The Trail of the Year Award presented by Specialized will be voted for by the riders and team managers who have been at every round in 2017, with the winning trail builders awarded $2000 to go to a trail association or charity of their choice, and all the nominees will be given a Trail Boss tool as well. With just one round left before the end of the season, seven of the eight nominees have been revealed. To find out more about each of the trails nominated read on – and don’t forget to tune in to Finale next weekend to find out which stage the riders will choose as the final nominee.

Rotorua, New Zealand – Stage 5: Frankfurter – Riff Raff – Rocky Horror

Richie Rude gapping up sections of stage 1

Trail Builders: Mark Thompson, Robert Metz. Volunteers; Richard Caldwell, Weazel, Sam and Steve the dog. Mark Upscale on the chainsaw.

Trail Distance: 3km.

How long did it take to build: 6 weeks.

Hours of Labour: Total build time was about 170 hours. Plus ongoing work to keep it running well.

Did it get built for the EWS: The 2015 EWS was the motivation for the trail and a driving force in getting the required permission to make it happen. However, a fun trail for locals and visitors to ride was higher on our agenda than the EWS when it came to the actual build.

Was it volunteer built: Mark and I were paid for our time.

How many people were involved: 98% of the build was by Mark Thompson and myself. The remaining 2% was friends coming along to help out on occasion.

How did it impact the town: I think this trail played a small role in the shift from groomed and machined built trails that Rotorua has in abundance, to a more raw trail. The vision for the Rotorua trail network has changed to include a healthier portion of this type of trail. I think word has got out about this and we are seeing more capable mountain bikers from all over NZ and the world come here to ride. Previously a lot of these people stayed away, you get groomed, flow and machine built trails in every bike park around the world. If you are going to travel to ride your bike I think you want to ride trails that are specific to the local terrain, soil, riders and builders. You now  get this is in Rotorua.

What was your inspiration: Fun! Like I said, we want good trails for locals to ride so we keep this in mind every time we move dirt. The terrain dictated the overall feel of the trail. We choose the gradient and the surface treatment but a start and  finish point dictated that we have some traversing across steep faces and a crazy gully to ride through at the bottom. We are just trying to get from A – B , find interesting features , keep a good flow, throw in a few steep bits and rowdy sections. All so we get a fun trail to ride – Rob. We named the track for all the huge house sized rocks in the lower section. There’s not a lot of rock around Rotorua so it’s unusual for us. Also the movie gave us a lot of other names for surrounding tracks – Mark.

Hardest part: To be honest, I really like being in the forest building trails. It never feels hard – Rob. A year after it was finished the top section (frank n furter) was logged so we had to rebuild it through the cut over. Clearing the slash by hand was probably the hardest part of the job – Mark

Describe trail in your own words: My favourite part of this entire trail would be the Rocky horror section. I would have to say it is “engaging.”

Tasmania, Australia – Stage 2: Detonate.

Brian Regnier squeezing those 800m bars through the rock slab

Trail Builders: Main designers were Rhys Atkinson, Max Connor and myself, Ryan De La Rue. 

Trail Distance: The new section of trail was about 700m and shoots into Flickety Sticks which is about 1.6 km long.

How long did it take to build: The Detonate trail took a day to explore the natural rock features and link them up, then flag the alignment for approval. Once construction started it took 2 weeks to cut in. The lower half of the trail, Flickety Sticks, was built in early 2015 and took roughly 4 weeks to build.

Hours of Labour: Just Detonate itself took about 240 man hours to cut in by hand. That’s not including Flickety Sticks which was machine built.

Did it get built for the EWS: Detonate, which is the top half of the stage was specifically built for the EWS, we decided to take advantage of some of the extra elevation and natural features above the existing trail – Flickety Sticks.

Was it volunteer built: All the trails in the Blue Derby network have been professionally designed and built by World Trail.

How many people were involved: We had a 3 man team building the trail, it was all hand built so some sections were easier where we scraped lines on the massive granite rock slabs. Other sections required some heavy work moving rocks in to place by using hand winches and chain slings.

How did it impact the town: Detonate has added a new flavor of trail to the Blue Derby network, it has some very raw natural features and is one of the few advanced black trails.  Where as Flickety Sticks is a perfect intermediate trail that allows beginner riders get up to speed and really start feeling some flow.

What was your inspiration: We were inspired by the massive granite rock slabs and boulders we found while exploring the hill side. We had a high point we needed to start at that had an amazing view of the Derby township and a finish point on Flickety Sticks where we wanted to join in. We aimed to challenge racers with the natural rock features and left a lot of the corners raw so the riders them selves would define the ride lines.  We were really stoked to be able to incorporate the unique gap between two massive boulders that was only just wide enough for handlebars to squeeze through.

Hardest part: We winched some massive rocks to allow us to make natural boulder lines rideable.  We pushed our hand winch to its limits but there’s always a huge sense of satisfaction when the crew moves massive rocks in to a rideable line.  All the trails specifically built for the EWS were hand built and were incredibly physical on the crew but we were all so stoked to be building trails for the worlds best to come and enjoy.

Describe trail in your own words: Detonate starts up on a ridge overlooking Derby, a few pedal strokes in and your pointing straight down a massive granite rock slab that’s slightly off camber and has you guessing whether or not your tires are going to grip or slip.  You get catapulted off the slab into some trademark World Trail whoops before hitting a couple of nice loose flat corners.  You then have to keep your eyes up while picking your way over a bunch of natural boulders and loose right corners.  Then you turn down in to the signature feature of the trail, the handle bar width chute that gets you stressing about scraping your pinky fingers off. A few more tight steep corners then spit you out on to the Flickety Sticks trail where you can pedal and pump your way down some sweet Derby style flow.

Madeira, Portugal – Stage 8: “Boca do Risco”

Jerome Clementz isn't borthered by a bit of exposure

Trail Builders: 8 builders. Master trail builder: Alexandre Gouveia. Others: Roberto Chaves, Vitor Freitas, Marcelino, Ruben Gouveia, João Fernandes

Trail Distance: 2.82km

How long did it take to build: 3 months divided over 2 years.

Approx. hours of Labour: 360 hours.

Did it get built for the EWS: No, but it was updated to meet the EWS standards.

Was it volunteer built: No, it was 100% founded by Freeride Madeira and the Council of Machico.

How did it impact the town: This trail was crucial for the organisation of a EWS in the town of Machico as it was the one that linked the upper part of the venue into town allowing riders to end the day at sea level, at their place of accommodation meaning a positive economical impact to the Town of Machico all year round. 

What was your inspiration: “Boca do Risco” – “Mouth of Risk” was initially an ancient footpath maybe over 300 years old where 2 thirds of its length was a straight line up a super steep ridge just on the side of a 200 meter cliff that could perfectly be a scene of Jurassic Park. It never became a signed recommended footpath as it was even to hard and dangerous for hiking. Back in 2012 when we first tried riding the line it was super hard to ride even for a very experienced DH rider but the beauty of the place was jaw dropping and allowed us to finish a sea level so from there we knew we had a very valuable diamond waiting to be shaped.     

What was the hardest part: To avoid the line being straight down the ridge and on the edge of a cliff we had to hand cut our way in the dense vegetation (Acacia trees) towards the opposite side of the cliff and bench cut the trail, gently snaking down the hill with a few switchbacks creating a completely new mountain bike line. The last third of the trail is flatter and remains as original where we only did a bit of ground work removing some awkward rocks and made it a bit wider in parts.

Describe the trail in your own words:  Our Trail Crew at Freeride Madeira has traveled to ride in BC and the Alps a few times and we must say that “Boca do Risco” is one of the most impressive and special trails we have ever ridden. We would consider this trail at double black level considering how steep it is in parts and the exposure that also prevails in a couple of sections becoming quite demanding when wet. We must say that after hundreds of riders rode it at the EWS it still remained in perfect conditions. It is one of the trails in better shape in Madeira to date!

Wicklow, Ireland – Stage 1: “Full Gas”

Anita Gehrig keeping things low on stage 1

Trail Builders: Niall Davis, Conor Lavelle, Brendan Davis, Howie Miller, Dave Carroll Trail.

Distance: 2.2 km.

How long did it take to build: About 15 digging sessions.

Approx. hours of Labour: 150 hours.

Did it get built for the EWS: Mostly yes.

Was it volunteer built: Mostly.

How many people were involved: 6 to 10 people

How did it impact the town: N/A as it’s unsanctioned.

What was your vision/inspiration: We wanted to make a trail that was relatively high speed, as a lot of the other stuff in Carrick is quite tight. So just lots of fast fun sections, trying to link in as many features as possible.

Hardest part: Seeing an entire day of digging destroyed by timber harvesting. But in hindsight it’s probably one of the best sections now!

Describe trail in your own words: So the trail is called Full Gas for a reason! It’s a pretty intense ride from top to bottom, with no rest points, which is exactly what we wanted. Starting in mature pine forestry, the trail is bench cut across the hill which slopes from right down to the left. It meanders through the wide spaces thought is pretty linear with the exception of one or two hairpin corners. Next section is like threading a needle, riders drop off a tricky section of rocks, straight into a pitch black forest full of whoops. Across the road and the speed really picks up in the felled section, wide fast corners, switching back up the hill to keep the height, but not loosing speed. Across the road and into the gully section, this was an old classic which the motor bike guys used to ride. We cut it back and shaped it up, threw in a few nice turns over crests and fade-aways to make it interesting. At the mid way point now, three small doubles and straight into the ‘double drop’. This is a super steep section dropping onto a small forest road and steep again off the road. It works perfectly, just let the bike float off the road mid way through and you’re getting some serious air time! The speed is used to fire you back up a punchy little climb, then onto the motor way which is a grown over hard pack logging road, now a perfect single track with wispy grass either side. The very last section was fresh cut and pretty much in touched before the race, so lots of lines and different options appeared there. A nasty surprise for some, but what a way to end a full on 4 minutes! The trail is now riding mint post EWS, the heavy rain during practice helped tear up that top layer of muck and it’s now down to the hard pack red clay that Carrick is famous for. 

Millau, France – Stage 8

Greg Callaghan's kit pops amongst the rock scree on stage 8.

Trail builders: Papik, Paul, Christophe Chaplain, Dorian soulié, the TVB team.

Distance: 2.30 km

How long did it take to build: 10 full days

Approx. hours of Labour: 100 hours.

Did it get built for the EWS: No it is an already existing trail, we created it (all the first part) for the enduro regionale 

Was it volunteer built: Yes.

How many people were involved: 4 to 5 people

How did it impact the town: It is a mixed trail around Millau, it is excellent to train and allow new riders to have a trail of quality a few steps from the house.

What was your vision/inspiration: We made a lot of changes to make the trail as complete as possible. So we ride on several types of surface. We also wanted to pass the way in original zones (the bed of a dried stream, a rock …) Finally we wanted the public in this special that is why we arranged the stone at the end of the trail.

What was the hardest part of this track? Getting the stone at the end of the track on to the course.

Describe this course in your own words? A complete trail, flow on the beginning a little new school with successions of turn in support. It continues its course in the bottom of a dried brook with great break of slope, short nervous relaunch. It ends in an impressive stone, to finally rider on 300m in a stream!

 

Aspen, USA. Stage 4: Trail 16

Casey Brown keeps it low on stage 4, which she won. Casey continued to battle all day with Isabeau for 2nd place but ultimately ended up 3rd.

Trail Builders: Matt De Stefano, Christ Branstetter, Curt Clemetson, Michael Rainwater, David Klebes, Scott Mackie, Jaz Dowling, Bryan Paul, Aaron Paul, David Bennet, Nicole Kennedy, Louis Neil, Ryan Lipari, Robert Tood and the Help of Gravity Logic andYannick Rioux.

Trail Distance: Approx. 1.6 miles (2.6 km).

How long did it take to build: Approx. 5 weeks.

Hours of Labour: 2000 hours.

Did it get built for the EWS: Yes.

Was it volunteer built: No.

How many people were involved: 15 trail crew.

How did it impact the town: Very good, did not have a new expert trail for a long time and its serviced by the Snowmass chair lift also.

What was your inspiration: From comments, feedback and promotor of the EWS. The need of that kind of trail for the advanced locals.

Hardest part: Moving the big rock in place.

Describe trail in your own words: Rowdy, technical and fast, fun, expert

Whistler, Canada – Stage 1: Top of the World into Ride Don’t Slide

There was a surprise rider on track getting a taste for enduro stages.

Trail Builders: I am not entirely sure of the original builders of Ride Don’t Slide (RDS) besides Dan Swanstrom. Below are the names of Gravity Logic crew: Jenny Liljegren, Gregg Winter, Jesse Saunders, Adam Billinghurst, Andrew Gunn, Kenny Smith, Alex Prochazka, Rob Cocquyt, Ollie Hingley, Lyle and a couple more who I can’t remember. Alex and I designed Top Of The World (TOTW) together and I designed the RDS reroutes.

Trail Distance: 10km – Top of the World 5.5km and Ride don’t Slide 4.5km Approx.

How long did it take to build: We (Gravity Logic) built TOTW in two summer seasons – about 5 months. That trail is about 5km. RDS has been an ongoing project. Since it was an existing trail it was rideable but it was gnarly. We built about 2 km of reroutes which took about 3 months over last 3 summers. Gravity Logic also does yearly maintenance on this trail.

Hours of Labour: TOTW has approximately 6000 man/woman (we had a Swedish girl, Jenny, on the crew) hours in it. RDS reroutes have approximately 2200 man (no girls on this crew) hours in it.

Did it get built for the EWS: No. It’s actually two separate trails – Top of The World and Ride Don’t Slide. Top of The World was a trail we built for Whistler Bike Park and RDS was an old gnarly trail which we rebuilt and built some reroutes around the real gnarly lines.

Was it volunteer built: TOTW was paid for by WB as were the reroutes on RDS. WB also pays for the maintenance of RDS which is technically part of the bike park. The original RDS was completely unpaid labor.

How many people were involved: TOTW was built by a crew of about five. I am not sure how many people built the original RDS, but the main builder was Dan Swanstrom who built a few classics around Whistler – Danimal and Industrial Desease. His trails were actually trials moto trails. The reroutes which we built were built by a crew of two to five people, depending on which section.

How did it impact the town: TOTW has become a signature trail for Whistler Bike Park and has really opened up the upper part of the mountain. You can access a few of the out of bounds trails such as RDS or Khyber Pass, Kush and Kashmir from this trail so it has really opened up the mountain beyond the bike park. Because the trails is an additional fee to access, it has generated additional revenues for the bike park. But more importantly, it has attracted more riders which are seeking the alpine euro experience. I think that the trails has paid for itself many times over since it opened. Having RDS accessible from the Peak Chair Lift has opened up the out of bounds, deep woods, true west coast gnarly trail experience but with the reroutes if has made it more rideable for a greater variety of riders. This gives more people a chance to experience this unique trail and the amazing old growth forest (never been logged) through which it snakes. When you combine the alpine feel of TOTW with the deep woods of RDS you get the true west coast MTB experience.

What was your inspiration: For TOTW the mandate was to build an alpine experience trail which most people can ride – not gnarly, but not XC. The original RDS has some extreme sections which only expert riders can clean, so the object was to find routes which could be safely ridden by a greater segment of the riding public. Basically, make the trail more enjoyable for more people. We did that but we still left the gnarly sections for the more adventurous riders.

 Hardest part: TOTW starts on a really rocky ridge and it was the easiest route off the mountain, but no matter how hard we tried to make it easier, it still remains the hardest part of the trail. We would have preferred to make it a bit easier, but the terrain just was not there. We also battled snow, rain and mosquitoes – typical alpine trail building conditions. We had some pretty tough sections on RDS as well. There is a 100 meter traverse through a cliff section which is entirely built up from rock. It was the only keyhole though this cliff and if we didn’t get through it we would not have a trail. Had to be conquered and it was.

Describe trail in your own words: Riding TOTW is like going to therapy. When I ride this trail I shed all stress and life burdens and I just enjoy the ride. Whether you want to pin it full gas or just cruise and enjoy the views you can do it. It is never crowded, but the people you meet there are happy to chill and chat. That does not happen on A-Line. I have my favorite spots to stop, enjoy the views and just chill. It is also fun to reflect on the times when we were designing the trail with my son Alex and all of the funny stories which accompany building a trail. Every section of the trail has a story. The feeling of pride is definitely there. I am thankful to Dan Swanstrom and all of the locals that put hard work into the build of the original RDS. This trail is definitely more in your face than TOTW but it still has flow. I also have my favorite chill spots among the giant cedars on this trail. The forest here is magical – top to the bottom. RDS also seems never ending. It just keep going on and on. The variety of terrain is amazing. One minute you are cruising a pretty easy loamy track, next you are bouncing over giant roots and then you are thankful for your suspension as you drop off a cliff. You can drink the water out of the creek when you get thirsty. It comes straight out of the West Bowl glacier. Can’t beat that. No need for water bottles. I do ride with a spare tube, tools and a pump because it is a bitch of a hike out if your bike breaks. TOTW to RDS to Creekside is by far my favorite line on Whistler. I ride it almost daily when I am at home.

So there you have it, seven of the eight stages up for this award. Tune into the last race of the year in Finale – the Bluegrass Finalenduro powered by SRAM –  on September 30/October 1 to see which of their seven trails makes it on to the list. The winning trail will be announced on Monday, October 2nd.